Science Fiction of the month

I seem to have written several posts about fantasy books in the last few months.  This month I’m going back to science fiction.

The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers.

Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect much when she joins the crew of the aging Wayfarer. While the patched-up ship has seen better days, it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and most importantly, some distance from her past. An introspective young woman who learned early to keep to herself, she’s never met anyone remotely like the ship’s diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, chatty engineers Kizzy and Jenks who keep the ship running, and Ashby, their noble captain.

Life aboard the Wayfarer is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. It’s also about to get extremely dangerous when the crew is offered the job of a lifetime. Tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet is definitely lucrative and will keep them comfortable for years. But risking her life wasn’t part of the plan. In the far reaches of deep space, the tiny Wayfarer crew will confront a host of unexpected mishaps and thrilling adventures that force them to depend on each other. To survive, Rosemary’s got to learn how to rely on this assortment of oddballs—an experience that teaches her about love and trust, and that having a family isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the universe.

This book doesn’t offer much of the epic space battles that come to mind when talking about Space Operas.  What it does offer is a glimpse into how living in space among aliens isn’t always that much different from living on Earth in the present.  I really enjoyed this book.  It has a large cast of characters, but they all get their chance to shine, and they all are well developed.  The action is episodic, but all ties together into a coherent whole. I recommend this book if you are looking for a lighter science fiction book that still satisfies.

A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers) by [Chambers, Becky]

If you enjoyed this book, there is a sequel called A Closed and Common Orbit

Monthly Fantasy

The Invisible Library      The Masked City    The Burning Page

This month is a review of a relatively new series called The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman.  The series currently has three books published, The Invisible Library, The Masked City, and The Burning Page.

I’ve included the synopsis of the first book:

Collecting books can be a dangerous prospect in this fun, time-traveling, fantasy adventure from a spectacular debut author. One thing any Librarian will tell you: the truth is much stranger than fiction… Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Most recently, she and her enigmatic assistant Kai have been sent to an alternative London. Their mission: Retrieve a particularly dangerous book. The problem: By the time they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions are prepared to fight to the death to find the tome before Irene and Kai do, a problem compounded by the fact that this world is chaos-infested–the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic to run rampant. To make matters worse, Kai is hiding something–secrets that could be just as volatile as the chaos-filled world itself. Now Irene is caught in a puzzling web of deadly danger, conflicting clues, and sinister secret societies. And failure is not an option–because it isn’t just Irene’s reputation at stake, it’s the nature of reality itself…

I haven’t read any but the first book yet, they are so popular I haven’t been able to get my hands on them, but I really enjoyed it.  It has a little of everything: fantasy, steampunk, mystery, faeries, order vs. chaos, and parallel worlds, all featuring a cast of likable characters.  If you are looking for a fun read, with more than just the one book, this is it. According the the author, she is editing book 4, and writing book 5.

Your dose of Fantasy

26892110This month I’m only going to talk about one book, “The Library at Mount Char” by Scott Hawkins.  This is a book that doesn’t really fit into one genre.  We have it tagged as fantasy here but beware, there is a hefty dose of horror as well.  It’s also a book that you have to be patient with. Events happen in chronological order, but aren’t explained until close to the end of the book. For the first 100 or so pages, be prepared to be confused.

The book flap has this to say:

A missing God.
A library with the secrets to the universe.
A woman too busy to notice her heart slipping away.
Carolyn’s not so different from the other people around her. She likes guacamole and cigarettes and steak. She knows how to use a phone. Clothes are a bit tricky, but everyone says nice things about her outfit with the Christmas sweater over the gold bicycle shorts.

After all, she was a normal American herself once.

That was a long time ago, of course. Before her parents died. Before she and the others were taken in by the man they called Father.

In the years since then, Carolyn hasn’t had a chance to get out much. Instead, she and her adopted siblings have been raised according to Father’s ancient customs. They’ve studied the books in his Library and learned some of the secrets of his power. And sometimes, they’ve wondered if their cruel tutor might secretly be God.

Now, Father is missing—perhaps even dead—and the Library that holds his secrets stands unguarded. And with it, control over all of creation.

As Carolyn gathers the tools she needs for the battle to come, fierce competitors for this prize align against her, all of them with powers that far exceed her own.

But Carolyn has accounted for this.

And Carolyn has a plan.

The only trouble is that in the war to make a new God, she’s forgotten to protect the things that make her human.

I can’t say much more than that without giving away the book.  I can say that it’s a weird mix of urban fantasy, horror, and humour.  There are a couple of fairly graphic violent scenes, sex happens off screen (to the commentary of the listeners)  a few times, and Father can be cruel to the point of torture.  Having said all that, I really enjoyed the book, and would recommend it to anyone willing to try something that refuses to be defined, or neatly boxed up.

New Science Fiction

I seem to have focused on Fantasy for the last couple of posts, so lets go back to Science Fiction.

I recently ordered a new book for the collection that I would like to read.

Barsk: The Elephant’s Graveyard by Lawrence M. Schoen.

23848066A historian who speaks with the dead is ensnared by the past. A child who feels no pain and who should not exist sees the future. Between them are truths that will shake worlds. In a distant future, no remnants of human beings remain, but their successors thrive throughout the galaxy. These are the offspring of humanity’s genius–animals uplifted into walking, talking, sentient beings. The Fant are one such species: anthropomorphic elephants ostracized by other races, and long ago exiled to the rainy ghetto world of Barsk. There, they develop medicines upon which all species now depend. The most coveted of these drugs is koph, which allows a small number of users to interact with the recently deceased and learn their secrets. To break the Fant’s control of koph, an offworld shadow group attempts to force the Fant to surrender their knowledge. Jorl, a Fant Speaker with the dead, is compelled to question his deceased best friend, who years ago mysteriously committed suicide. In so doing, Jorl unearths a secret the powers that be would prefer to keep buried forever. Meanwhile, his dead friend’s son, a physically challenged young Fant named Pizlo, is driven by disturbing visions to take his first unsteady steps toward an uncertain future.



Fantasy for the month

This month, I’m focusing on fantasy again.

I just read a fantastic series that blends historical fiction and fantasy.  Specifically the Napoleonic Wars and dragons.

The Temeraire series by Naomi Novik tells the story of Captain Laurence, of His Majesty’s Navy, who becomes bonded to the dragon Temeraire.

28876When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes its precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Capt. Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future-and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature. Thrust into the rarified world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire.

The series starts with “His Majesty’s Dragon”, and continues through another 7 titles.

My second choice is from well known Science Fiction author David Weber.

He has turned his hand to fantasy in the War God series.

17315The first book is “Oath of Swords”. Our Hero: The unlikely Paladin, Bahzell Bahnakson of the Horse Stealer Hradani. He’s no knight in shining armor. He’s a hradani, a race known for their uncontrollable rages, bloodthirsty tendencies, and inability to maintain civilized conduct. None of the other Five Races of man like the hradani. Besides his ethnic burden, Bahzell has problems of his own to deal with: a violated hostage bond, a vengeful prince, a price on his head. He doesn’t want to mess with anybody else’s problems, let alone a god’s. Let alone the War God’s! So how does he end up a thousand leagues from home, neck-deep in political intrigue, assassins, demons, psionicists, evil sorcery, white sorcery, dark gods, good gods, bad poets, greedy landlords, and most of Bortalik Bay? Well, it’s all the War God’s fault.

This is nice because although it is the first book in a series, it does tie itself up nicely at the end.